Kenny Rogers Dead at 81
Kenny Rogers has died. The music legend, known best for his genre-crossing success in country and pop music, was 81.
Rogers died "peacefully at home," a statement says, at 10:25PM on Friday (March 20). He was under hospice care and with his loved ones at the time.
The singer had been dealing with health issues in recent years: He'd planned a few shows in 2018, but "a series of health challenges" led doctors to order him to cancel those performances. In 2019, after tabloids began reporting that he was dying, Rogers shared that he'd been hospitalized for dehydration and was completing physical therapy "to get his strength back."
Kenneth Ray Rogers was born on Aug. 21, 1938, in Houston, Texas. He was the fourth child of parents Lucille Lois and Edward Floyd Rogers, who had eight children in total.
Rogers started making music in the 1950s, and charted a record in every decade through the 2010s. He formed his first band, a doo-wop group called the Scholars, in high school, but his first charting song was as a solo performer: He performed that single, "That Crazy Feeling," on American Bandstand.
Rogers performed in a jazz trio (the Bobby Doyle Three) and a folk music ensemble (the New Christy Minstrels), and took jobs as a session musician, recording with Mickey Gilley and Eddy Arnold. Then, in 1967, along with Minstrels members Mike Settle, Terry Williams and Thelma Camacho, he formed the First Edition. The group (later joined by Kin Vassy) recorded hits including "Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In)," "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," "But You Know I Love You" and others.
From there, Rogers launched his illustrious career, during which he became known as both a solo artist and a master collaborator. As a solo artist in the 1970s, he released massively successful albums such as Kenny Rogers and The Gambler, which contained hit singles including "Laura (What's He Got That I Ain't Got)," "Lucille" and "Coward of the County."
Rogers also made a name for himself as a successful collaborator, beginning with his partnership with Dottie West in the 1970s. The two went on to record two award-winning albums, Every Time Two Fools Collide and Classics. As a duo, they earned a gold record, a platinum record, two Grammy nominations, one ACM nomination and two CMA Awards.
LOOK: Kenny Rogers Through the Years
Rogers continued to form partnerships throughout the 1980s, recording duets with Kim Carnes, Lynda Carter and Sheena Easton. In 1983, he recorded his most successful duet: "Islands in the Stream," with Dolly Parton, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, country singles and adult contemporary singles charts.
"I loved Kenny with all my heart. My heart's broken, and a big old chunk of it has gone with him today," Parton said following Rogers' death. "You never know how much you love somebody until they’re gone. I’ve had so many wonderful years and wonderful times with my friend Kenny, but above all the music and the success I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend."
Rogers and Parton reprised their partnership in 2013, when they recorded "You Can't Make Old Friends." He was also one of 45 artists to record "We Are the World" in 1985.
Rogers stayed on the charts throughout the decades, with hits including "What About Me?," "Crazy," "The Factory," "Crazy in Love," "The Greatest," "Buy Me a Rose" and "I Can't Unlove You." Throughout his decorated career, he notched 24 No. 1 singles and sold 120 million albums worldwide. He was nominated for three Grammy Awards, 19 AMA Awards, eight ACM Awards and six CMA Awards, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
Rogers was also an actor, a photographer and a writer. His acting career began with a role in 1982's Six Pack and was most successful in made-for-TV movies, including The Gambler and Coward of the County, based off of his songs. He produced several photography books and received an Honorary Masters of Photography from the Professional Photographers of America in 2014.
Rogers, who is the subject of an upcoming A&E documentary, embarked on a final farewell tour in 2016, saying of his decision to stop touring, "I've been so lucky to have enjoyed such a long career and to have such amazing support from my fans and all who have helped me along the way ... my life is about my wife and my 11-year-old twin boys right now. There are a lot of things I want to do together with them to create some special memories."
Rogers is survived by his wife, Wanda Miller, and their two children, along with three other children from previous marriages. As Rogers died during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, his family, their statement reports, is planning a small, private service for the time being, but "look[ing] forward to celebrating Kenny’s life publicly with his friends and fans at a later date."
Rest in Peace, Kenny Rogers: Country Stars Mourn the Legend